2023-09-08 · 5 min read · NFL/Football
Sam Darnold and Bobby Wagner

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images | Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

If we can sum up the teams in the NFC West last season in one word, unpredictable is the first one that comes to mind.
Heading into the previous campaign, who’d have pegged the Niners to be Super Bowl contenders with a third-string quarterback in Brock Purdy, selected last in the 2022 NFL Draft?
How many people out there seriously believed the Seahawks, minus Russell Wilson, would be a playoff team with Geno Smith at the controls?
Who saw the 2021-22 Super Bowl champion Rams winning just five games?
While perhaps not quite as unpredictable as the others, we might have all forgotten that the Cardinals came into the previous regular season fresh off a playoff appearance.
As we look into this division, it will be interesting to see what the quarterbacking situation will be like in San Fran, if Sean McVay can get his Rams back into playoff contention and what kind of magic Geno has in year two as the Seahawks starter.
There’s a lot to unpack, so here is a look at each AFC West team and where I think they’ll finish.
San Francisco 49ers
Key Additions
  • Javon Hargrave- Defensive Tackle- Philadelphia Eagles
  • Matt Pryor- Offensive Tackle- Indianapolis Colts
  • Sam Darnold- Quarterback- Carolina Panthers
Key Subtractions
  • Jimmy Garoppolo- Quarterback- Las Vegas Raiders
  • Jimmie Ward- Safety- Houston Texans
  • Robbie Gould- Kicker
Biggest Strength
As if the NFL’s sack leader in 2022, Nick Bosa, needed more help, GM John Lynch got him plenty this offseason by adding Javon Hargrave to a unit which registered 44 sacks a year ago and appears to be just as dangerous in 2023.
Biggest Weakness
The only weakness that stands out to me is their kicking game, as Robbie Gould left after six seasons, putting up a field goal percentage of 84.4 in 2022.
Jake Moody was taken in the third round of the previous NFL Draft and had an impressive college resume, being named a consensus All-American under ex-Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh, but how will he handle the pressure of needing to make a big kick in the NFL?
Prediction- First in NFC West
The Niners, for my money, still have the best defensive unit in football, and even though there’s a lot of mystery surrounding whether it should be Purdy, Trey Lance or Sam Darnold behind centre, I think that’s a minor speedbump in what should be another big year for this crew.
Kyle Shanahan has an embarrassment of riches offensively with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle, to name a few, so I’d be shocked if they don’t run away with the NFC West in 2023.
Arizona Cardinals
Key Additions
  • Kyzir White- Linebacker- Philadelphia Eagles
  • Zach Pascal- Wide Receiver- Philadelphia Eagles
  • Paris Johnson- Offensive Tackle- Ohio State
Key Subtractions
  • JJ Watt- Defensive End- Retired
  • DeAndre Hopkins- Wide Receiver- Tennessee Titans
  • Byron Murphy- Cornerback- Minnesota Vikings
Biggest Strength
What this team excels at most is a head-scratcher to me because they were so poor in virtually every defensive and offensive category a year ago.
Kyler Murray, if healthy, can be a great run option, but I will go with their receiving corps as the best component of the 2023 squad.
Zach Pascal was reliable in Philly when thrown to, Hollywood Brown can be dangerous down the field, and though his NFL stats are far from impressive, Andre Baccellia could surprise some people this season.
Biggest Weakness
Rookie head coach Jonathan Gannon has a lot of flaws to contend with on this roster, particularly on a defensive line, that will be missing a big chunk of pressure with the retirement of JJ Watt.
Last year Watt wasn’t the force we’d seen from yesteryears; however, he was the only one on that line who was able to get consistent penetration, and without him, I fear their total of 36 sacks in 2022 will decrease significantly this year.
Prediction- Fourth in NFC West
I don’t envy the situation Gannon is in because, for me, he’s a bright coach who could have a good future ahead of him; I just don’t see things working out too well for him this season.
There are too many holes offensively and defensively on this roster to count, and even the high-priced talents like Murray have been more of a headache than an asset lately.
Los Angeles Rams
Key Additions
  • Hunter Long- Tight End- Miami Dolphins
  • Steve Avila- Guard- TCU
  • Demarcus Robinson- Wide Receiver- Baltimore Ravens
Key Subtractions
  • Jalen Ramsey- Cornerback- Miami Dolphins
  • Bobby Wagner- Linebacker- Seattle Seahawks
  • Leonard Floyd- Defensive End- Buffalo Bills
Biggest Strength
If Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp can remain healthy, the Rams will be dangerous through the air, and they’ll need that because they made little to no significant moves over the offseason.
Van Jefferson and Demarcus Robinson could provide some secondary help in the receiving department, though it seems like the offence will live and die with Stafford and Kupp.
Biggest Weakness
Their passing attack was nearly unstoppable when they captured the Super Bowl two seasons ago, but their running game, led by Cam Akers, was a disaster in 2022, and he seems like their best option heading into the new campaign, which is not a good sign if you’re Sean McVay.
Prediction- Third in NFC West
The Rams dropped seven more games in 2022 than in the previous campaign, something which should have been a clear signal to the front office that some changes needed to be made.
A healthy Stafford and Kupp might give them a few more wins; however, Aaron Donald isn’t getting any younger and overall, that defensive unit looks thin.
Seattle Seahawks
Key Additions
  • Bobby Wagner- Linebacker- Los Angeles Rams
  • Dre’Mont Jones- Defensive End- Denver Broncos
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba- Wide Receiver- Ohio State
Key Subtractions
  • Marquise Goodwin- Wide Receiver- Cleveland Browns
  • Laquon Treadwell- Wide Receiver- Baltimore Ravens
  • Al Woods- Defensive Tackle- New York Jets
Biggest Strength
Geno Smith may have been the feelgood story in Seattle last year, but Kenneth Walker established himself as a prized running back, finishing 12th in league rushing (1,050).
Walker is an intelligent runner with speed and stamina, who I believe will continue to flourish under that Pete Carroll system.
Biggest Weakness
They certainly aren’t terrible in the secondary, but the 2023 Seahawks are not even close to being on the same level with the cover units from the 2010s, allowing an average of 211.5 yards through the air last season.
Prediction- Second in NFC West
I don’t know if the Smith magic and that veteran crop of receivers will be enough to get them back into the playoff this year, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t be in the mix late into the campaign.
The Seahawks made plenty of intelligent offseason signings and have a good group of youth and experience which should make them, at worst a respectable team this season.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Joel Lefevre


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